Absence Makes Me Wordier!

It has been a long time.  A lifetime, practically.  (My Baby’s lifetime, boom boom!  This is a joke I have been making a lot. I amuse at least myself.)

On the sewing front, I have done very little.  Mostly because I had very little time, and also very little motivation, but I think my lack of motivation was due to my lack of time.  It is all very circular.  I desperately want to get back to sewing, and I have so many ideas (so many!) but time remains an issue.

On the blogging front, well, yeah.  Things were always winding down on the blogging front.  Social media has changed the landscape, too.  Instagram felt like the perfect place for sewing stuff, but it is annoying for a variety of reasons (mostly to do with being taken over by Facebook), and I wonder if we will go back to our blogs as a result? Possibly, but maybe not.

But lo! Some time last year I was struggling with not-sewing and as a result (the truth is I’m still struggling with not-sewing), started re-arranging furniture.  Look, it makes sense, okay? But not only did I need space – that was not the kitchen table – to sew, I also needed motivation. So I bought a ticket to the Sew Melbourne Garden Party, and it was aaaaages away and I figured I’d manage to make something for myself by then.  You can laugh; I’m laughing as I type.  Even before Baby, it could take me FOREVER to finish something.

Exhibit A:
Prior to falling pregnant, I started making the Deer and Doe Bruyere.  I even blogged about it.  My Bruyere muslin is *still* in the state you see in that blog post.  Partially because even then, the waist was probably going to be too tight, so I faffed and have not advanced any further.  Maybe I’ll return to it; maybe I should now be looking at making the next size up in any event!

I do need new clothes.  All kinds of new clothes.  Outwardly, my body has not changed significantly post Baby (who is insisting that I cease to refer to her as Baby but this is MY blog, Baby, and you cannot read yet, so take that!) but there have been huge psychological shifts (er, I’m responsible for an entire human being now) and discomforts in my current clothes, and I still have lots of wardrobe gaps because, I don’t know, life? laziness?

I have actually been sewing some bits and bobs here and there.  Mostly harem pants for Baby because they are so fun, and I have been upcycling things that don’t fit me anymore into things for Baby.  Harem pants are fun because you get to this point where they just look ridiculous, then you put in the waist elastic and – ta dah! – cute baby-butt pants.

For the Garden Party, I decided on the fabric – bought when Baby was an actual baby with the intention of making a breastfeeding friendly summer dress.  LOL. And then I spent forever dithering about patterns.  I had two in mind in particular: Megan Nielsen’s Darling Ranges (a pattern I bought after Baby’s birth with the intention of making many breastfeeding friendly dresses. All the LOLZ) and Deer and Doe’s Reglisse (a pattern I’ve had for ages but just never got around to making).  I put the pictures side-by-side and left them on my phone, and looked at them randomly as I tried to decide.

Darling Ranges is definitely more me, and I’ve liked the pattern ever since it was released, but my sewing nemesis: buttons! (Well, many things are my sewing nemesis…)  Reglisse sits squarely within ‘party dress’ territory for me.  But I like lots about it (hello, elastic waist and bias cut bodice).  Darling Ranges has pockets; Reglisse does not.  Darling Ranges has a straight skirt; Reglisse’s is a 3/4 circle skirt – dangerous territory for me.

I finally decided I would sew Darling Ranges, printed the pattern, cut out my size and then – Baby got hold of my phone, found the picture and said, unprompted, “I hate this. I love this.  Mummy make this.”  She hated Darling Ranges and liked Reglisse.

Look, maybe it’s not the most sensible thing to have your 2 year old direct your sewing plans, but that threw me.  I dithered some more.

And then the weekend before Sew Garden Party had arrived and I had not even started! I eventually decided to make Reglisse, helped along by the fact that I had traced my size so long ago that I didn’t remember doing it and discovered that when I traced my size I had also modified the skirt to include slash pockets.  Thanks, past me.  You’re a champ!  Thanks to the elastic waist, I decided it didn’t matter that I had traced a size 38 without grading out the waist.  I figured I’d just have a less gathered waist than many.

Serendipitously, I had the weekend before Sew Garden Party all to myself.  So, on Friday night, I cut out the pieces.  I spent all of Saturday sewing it up.  Slowly, with lots of breaks to watch random youtube videos completely unrelated to sewing.  It’s just a thing I do when my partner is not at home.  I had to dredge up from my memory how on earth to sew darts.  I followed the sewing instructions, but not the order, so I had to keep reading the entirety of the instructions to develop a process that works for me, which I used to be pretty good at doing after a quick read of sewing instructions but that muscle memory needs some work.  By the end of Saturday, I had the bodice pieced, the skirt pieced and the waistband done.  All that was left was to put them together.

I went for a long walk on Sunday, and on Sunday night put the whole thing together, packed up my kitchen table so it looked like a table again and let the dress hang in my sewing wardrobe to allow the hem to drop.  That and I did not have anywhere near enough of the right coloured bias tape to do the hem.  The Saturday before the garden party, I dashed off to Spotlight to purchase some bias binding during Her nap and that night, attempted to true the hem and hem the dress.  My truing didn’t work.  I put my dress on and asked my partner how terrible he thought the hem looked (yes, I skewed the result by asking a loaded question) and he tried to be kind and honest by saying it was definitely uneven but looked okay.  I didn’t take a photo.  I went to bed a bit miserable about it, and woke the following morning despondent.  So despondent, I announced that I didn’t feel like going to the garden party anymore.

No one who doesn’t sew would notice; every one who does sew, would.  They were whom I had made the dress for (and myself of course.) And I was sad that my first full not-t-shirt garment in the life of my Baby was not resoundingly successful.  There’s lots tied up in how I felt that morning, having much to do with how I feel about myself now that Baby is in my life, and it took my partner’s unfazed, “Are you going to fix it or wear it?” that had me madly working out how to fix it in the time I had left.

I unpicked the bias bound hem and my partner helped me true it.  My Baby kept asking us what we were doing and then wanted me to true a hem for her (she wasn’t actually wearing any clothes at the time but details, details).  Then Partner and Baby departed the house and I used the overlocker to trim the hem and tried to decide whether to use bias binding or something else for the hem.  I’d cut off quite a lot of hem by now and I like my skirts at knee length.  At this time, it was 11 and the garden party started at 12 and I needed to leave the house! Instead of the bias binding, I decided to do a dodgy narrow hem.  No pinning, just eyeballing.  It wasn’t perfect but it was much, much better.  About 15 minutes later, I was out the door!

The garden party was, of course, lovely.  I arrived an hour late, but I walked in at the same time as Li-ann (@happylat), so at least we both arrived late together! Everyone looked fabulous, it was so lovely to see and talk to everyone again, and I stayed pretty much until the end, gasbagging.  At some point, I started trying to make my way around to all the faces I didn’t know or knew only through Instagram but not in person but I think I got waylaid by Finska, cheese or strawberries and suddenly, people were slowly departing and I was saying bye to people I had not even said hi to!

Oh well, next year!

Perfect picnic, perfect weather. Thanks @sew_melbourne #sewmelbournegp

A post shared by Oanh Thi Tran (@1oanh) on


I Made My Own Baby Wearing Wrap! Read on to find out how I did it …

Do you know what such a thing is? Probably not if you don’t have / are about to have / know someone who has a Baby.

I cannot promise that this blog is not going to become all ‘baby, baby, baby’, because apparently the little things are all consuming, so I might fail at thinking about anything else at all for a while, which means I’m unlikely to write about anything else. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’ll just disappear from the blog too.  Surprise!

Anyway, baby wraps are, in effect, just one long piece of fabric.  There are lots and lots of tutorials about how to make one, entitled click-baity things like, ‘How to make a Baby wrap without sewing!’; ‘How to make a baby wrap for $5!’ etc. (I thought I’d give a click bait title a try. Not sure I won.)

Basically, the tutorials are this:

  1. You need a rectangular piece of knit/jersey fabric that is approximately 5 yard/metres long by about 50cm wide.
  2. You can hem or serge the edge if you want, but you don’t need to because knit doesn’t fray, so really that’s it. (Although there are a few tutorials telling you that you do have to hem it in case it frays, and I want to wade in, waving my arms around, but I won’t.)

None of the tutorials told me things what I, as someone who sews and who (sort of) understands fabric properties, needed/wanted to know:

  1. What kind of fabric?
  2. How much stretch?
  3. Which way does the grain/stretch run?
  4. Is it pieced? How did you manage to buy 5 yards/metres of fabric for that little money?!

The last is most significant if you are in Australia.  There is simply no way you will find that much fabric – of any description – for small pickings.  Wraps retail here for around $80 – $150 or thereabouts, depending on the fabric. This is a perfectly acceptable amount of money for the fabric content part of the wrap, without taking into account the labour involved (fairly minimal, admittedly) in the making of the wrap.  A commercial wrap will be hemmed and have a tag/logo.

I did a bit of online shopping research, but nothing really told me which way the grain ran, or the amount of stretch.  Plenty of wraps were made from bamboo knit, which makes sense if you’re selling to an Australian audience (cool and breatheable), as well as from cotton knits with varying degrees of Lycra/Spandex content.  This meant that the stretch was probably pretty variable, but what was optimal?

I asked baby wearing friends what they liked about wraps, which didn’t actually help my research at all (I already intended to carry my baby in some sort of device; I should say I’d ruled out slings, because I did not like the idea of the metal rings. Slings tend to be made from wovens, and would have been great for summer but no, I just don’t like the idea of them.)

One of my awesome friends has moved quite a bit, and in that time had multiple children.  She has used different wraps, and so was someone who could at least say which she liked more and why.  Her favourite was the Moby Wrap, because it had the least stretch. I decided I would mimic the Moby Wrap.

The main complaint about Moby Wraps from the online community seemed to be how complicated they were to wear.  I looked up instructions.  It doesn’t look impossibly complicated.  Also, I got origami skillz, yo. Also also, I used to be a rock climber; I can do complicated things with rope type other things (I just cannot call them by their proper names). I’ll be okay.

My next step of research was to get my hands on a Moby Wrap, because I still did not know how much stretch.  We are trying, as much as possible, to not get sucked into the excessive consumerism surrounding all things baby (you can buy a pram for more than the cost of our touring bikes! Insane.) Gumtree had a bunch (yay! But also, plenty of people said that theirs was ‘rarely used’); I picked one that to get to me would be less than half price new.

When it arrived, it was in excellent condition. I didn’t know whether I *needed* more than one wrap (I think Partner and I can trade wraps when we trade carrying baby?) but thought maybe I would if I chucked one in the wash? Apparently babies are also gross.

From the foregoing, this is what I decided were the answers to my questions above:

  1. Fabric: can be any knit or stretch woven, I reckon.  Any at all.  Your main consideration should be breathability, because it’s probably a good idea to not suffocate your baby. I’ve been to antenatal classes and that’s what they said.
  2. Stretch: A little but not too much.  I suggest less than 20%, and only 2-way.
  3. Grain/Stretch line: You want the stretch to run parallel to the long edge of your rectangle, and perpendicular to the short edge.
  4. Is it pieced? No. No it’s not. But can it be? I don’t see why not.  The internet says not to, because you don’t want any weight bearing seams.

Well, tish tosh to that.

I had an approximately 3 metre-ish long piece of technical fabric, that was wicking, breathable and made from a bamboo/polyester mix (57.37% White Bamboo Charcoal (Tax bamboo), 42.63% Wicking Polyester) that I had obtained from Stretchtex.  I had made a Megan Nielsen maternity tee from it for Japan, and though its properties were good, I did not like the colour on me (too see through!) I was going to have no other purpose for it, and could not see me offloading it to anyone. I thought it would be perfect for a wrap, with the right amount of ‘not too much’ stretch.

3 metres was too little for a wrap, even for someone my size. I wrapped it around me fine, but had no fabric left with which to tie it up.  Your girth is relevant; your height is not.

I added a metre of extra fabric to each end of the 3 metres, by firstly overlocking with wrong sides together.  I then turned that into a French seam, and then faux flat-felled the seam. If that’s not a seam that can hold the weight of a baby, I will simply have to develop awesome baby catching reflexes.

Mock Moby Wrap

My baby holding faux flat felled French seam.

Then I overlocked all the edges, using (for the first time ever!) woolly nylon for my two looper threads.  I increased the width of the overlock stitch to its widest, and decreased the length of the stitch to the second narrowest. Woolly nylon is a revelation!

Mock Moby Wrap

Boringest photo in the universe.

Now I have two serviceable baby wraps. All I need is the baby. I’m making that, too.

Sewing Room Shuffle Finale!

It’s done! I’ve shuffled to my heart’s content and will shuffle no more.  For the time being anyway…

I need to sew some clothes that will see me through the final trimester, and which are compatible with the approaching hotter weather, and which I might wear once baby departs her abode in my belly. And I want to sew stuff for baby too (mostly functional things like nappies, burp cloths and face & butt wipes; she’s going to be a summer baby who is likely to be naked most of the time).  I’m sure I’ll do a bit of refining as I sew, based on how I use the space.

I’m pretty pleased with myself that I mostly stuck to The Plan, and managed to do a cull of unnecessary things, too. As it panned out, I have less fabric than I thought, and my patterns take up less space than I expected. Winning at smug.

As presaged, I re-organised my binding and trim from The Hanger of Trims into an old postage box, which I prettified by covering in fabric. This resulted in my trims taking up much less space, and being consolidated with my Elastics & Reflectives.

Box of Trims!

Box of Trims!

I made bobbin shaped cards out of my and Partner’s old business cards, and spent some happy hours wrapping binding around each card. However I fairly quickly got bored of labelling my cards.

Here is the bottom part of my half of The Study’s wardrobe:
SSS Finale 2

  • Bottom Row
    • Left: overlocker thread and wooly nylon;
    • Right: untraced patterns or PDFs not yet stuck together, interfacing, spare folders
  • Middle Row
    • Left: Knit scraps; box of hardware bits & bobs; box of sewing machine feet & needles; box of buttons hiding at the back;
    • Right: Patterns – bottoms (creamy yellow) & dresses (grey)
  • Top Row
    • Left: box of minky & PUL (new acquisition for baby sewing!); cutting & tracing equipment – a very heavy little box due to the washers and nuts & bolts I use as pattern weights!;
    • Right: Patterns – tops (green), menswear (blue – so few you cannot even see the folders!) , bags, babies & household miscellany (orange).

Here is the top part of my half of The Study’s wardrobe:

      • Top Row
        • Left: Woven scraps and box of pressing equipment (ham, sausage, linen cloths plus my duster);
        • Right: stationery and zips (not happy with this storage; want a different solution)
      • On top of the cube unit:
        • Box of binding and trims; box of cables; the iron and the sewing essentials will live here when they’re not on my sewing desk (cup with thread snip, chalk pens, unpicker; pins tin and little thread rubbish bin);
      • On the wall: thread rack and just in sight to the right if you look carefully, my measuring tapes.
      • To the left is my rubbish scrap bag and a bin containing tracing paper, butcher paper, oil cloth and heavy interfacing.

Here is my fabric:

The left cubes are wovens; middle & right cubes are knits except for top right which is my bonus cube, it contains 'muslin fabric' (old sheets, actually) and other specialty things, like bike shorts chamois.

Left column: wovens

Middle column: knits

Right column

  • Top: bonus cube! Contains ‘muslin fabric’ (old sheets, actually), specialty fabrics and a miscellany of specialist notions (eg that bike short chamois I bought that time I was going to make me bike shorts but then realised my current two are doing me just fine.)
  • Bottom: more knits!

I made door snakes / draught excluders for our last house, where the gaps under the door let in so much cold air, it was like we lived in a wind tunnel.  The doors in this house appear to have been cut to the right size for the door frame (imagine that), and I’ve just kept the snakes. The serve no purpose.

And now we can step back and see it all, with my machines:

(Sorry for the saturation & over exposure; it was a beautiful day outside, which made photography difficult!)

(Sorry for the saturation & over exposure; it was a beautiful day outside, which made photography difficult!)

The box underneath my sewing desk contains all my WIPs. It is packed full! (I’m a multiple projects on the go person … or easily distracted by the next shiny thing). Having my projects in a box means I can easily tidy by tossing current project on top and shut the lid. Most of my projects are in ziplock bags inside the box, so they’re not getting all muddled up! On top of the box are magazines & books loaned to my by the lovely Helen.

And, yes, I am guilty of doing that thing where cables are not visible in the photo. This is because this is how I want my sewing area to look, when it is at rest. One day I will sew covers for my machines!

The ironing board gets set up each time I sew, just in the middle of the room somewhere, and ideally is put back on the little bit of wall between my desk and the wardrobe, but I moved it out to take photos.

The right most desk is His Desk, and therefore Not My Problem.

And now that I’ve blogged, I think it’s time to sew! Well, maybe after a quick lie down.

Trouser Saga

Oh the vexed matter of making one’s own trousers (or pants.  tee hee.)

Although I had wanted to sew clothes for a while, Sewaholic’s Thurlow trousers is what inspired me to properly commit to garment sewing.  I very much have a uniform: trousers and a shirt.  If it’s a workday, a button-up shirt; if it’s non-work, a t-shirt, and the trousers are more likely to be jeans.  I even have a particular style of trousers and jeans that I’ve worn since becoming an adult and which the vagaries of fashion have not moved me from.  Roughly straight legged, mid-rise, slash pockets.  There was a time in the late 90s, when trousers were cut exactly as I liked them.  Alas, that time is past.  I of course wear leggings for legging-relevant activities, and trackie-daks for trackie-dak related activities (like going to the shops in the middle of the night for ice-cream).  But even my preferred hiking trousers fit exactly this mold.

I have occasionally tried to branch out and wear other styles of trousers: higher-waisted, wider legged, harem (lordy, what was I thinking?) and fisherman (dear god why?). Those trousers invariably hung in my wardrobe watching their straight legged, mid-rise counterparts get worn to such an extent that they become threadbare and the knees permanently bag out.   

The Thurlows look exactly like the trouser I have always worn.

I made Thurlow shorts a long, long time ago.  I did a bunch of things wrong, but they were my practise pair, and I thought the fit was alright.  I recently (ish) made a muslin (!!) of the Thurlow trousers and they are huge on me.  Huge all round and especially huge in the derriere department (please read that with a terrible Pepe le Pew faux French accent).  I pinned out excess fabric and thought long and hard and researched longer and harder about the changes I would need to make to the pattern.  I had neglected to consider one key factor: Sewaholic does not design for me.  Tasia designs for the pear-shaped woman, and I am very happy she does. particularly as you with booty who have sewn her patterns appear to think that she does a sterling job.  I love the Alma.  The Cambie is also very sweet.  I am not a pear-shaped woman (mouthy stick with shoulders, remember?) and I decided maybe I needed to find another pattern.

There is no one, that I’m aware of, designing for a mouthy stick with shoulders, but that’s okay.  I’ll just try me some other patterns until something works.  I thought it might be easier to modify a different pattern, rather than work on the Thurlows.  But I do rather like the Thurlows so maybe one day I will return to it when I have more fitting expertise.  My unfinished projects are never discarded.  They visit a lovely resting place until I’m ready for them again.

I put my Thurlow muslin on to take photos for the blogpost, and lo and behold: it is not as bad as I remember.  I can only think magic sewing elves fixed it for me while it hung on my WIP rack.

There is someone designing for the petite woman, and she has designed a pair of trousers that look about right, but I have two issues: (1) I really don’t like the brand name and (2) though I’m short, I’m not sure I actually qualify as petite.  Petite is 5’4″ and under.  I’m just on that, but I’ve never really found RTW petite clothing fits me, so maybe I am proportioned averagely rather than petite-ly?  I’ll keep an eye on the patterns, but I just don’t feel persuaded enough to overcome my dislike of the brand name to purchase a pattern.  

Style Arc has a bunch of patterns that I’ve “pinned” (which being also a sewing term is practically like making them, right?) and I even bought the Audrey trousers, which came with a pair of free Lola trousers.  I’ve made the Lola but I did not like it.  Because it was not a pair of mid-rise, straight-legged trousers!  (I’m really an idiot, sometimes.)  And actually, the Lola trouser is a woven version of True Bias’ Hudson Pants (tee hee), which I have made three times and liked *a lot* but the Hudsons make no pretense of being anything other than fancy trackie-daks.  Woven trackie-daks? Not for me. I just cannot think of any occasion when I would wear them.  If it’s casual, I may as well wear trackie-daks.  If I want to look nice, well, I would not be wearing trackie-daks.  See?

I’ve settled on my next trouser pattern: the Sew Loft Emma pants (tee hee. Oh, you northern Americans.)  They’re like a skinnified Thurlow.

Muslin sewing is fast, though muslin photos are always terrible.  The Emma pants are pretty good! I was right (how gratifying). 

Sew Loft is a new to me pattern company, and I’m keen on these trousers and the Harper blouse, although I feel like a stranger to myself when I want to wear a sleeveless top.  The PDFs are well designed and not at all wasteful of paper or annoying to piece together.  I haven’t sewn anything yet, so I cannot say (nor am I particularly knowledgeable on the matter) whether the patterns are well drafted.

Finally, in my Epic Trouser Saga, I’ve signed on for a sewing class with Thread Den, here in Melbourne.  The class is called “Perfect Pants Pattern” (please interject tee hee in the correct place if you too are juvenile).  That’s a big call, no? We shall see, we shall see.  I’m fairly confident of my sewing (and unpicking and sewing again) skills, but I just feel all flummoxed when it comes to fitting.  I haven’t had any major issues so far: take in a bit here; let out a bit there, lengthen, or shorten and we’re done. And usually it is only one issue on a pattern.  But trousers have a whole lot of cascading issues and I think I need someone to hold my hand, and provide me lots of fortifying chocolate.

Wish me luck, and keep a beady eye on your feed readers for the next installment of Oanh’s Trouser Saga!  Coming probably not very soon to an internet near you!

Sewing Room

I’m going to tell you about my sewing room because I can and you cannot stop me.  

I’m an organised person.  And what’s more, I *like* organising, and I *like* cleaning, and before you ask, sure! I’ll come round and clean and organise for you.  No worries.  Just feed me and let me do what I will in your space, yes?

I continually refine my organising, however, and it’s taken me a while to get a grasp of what I need in an organised sewing workspace.  I like to be able to see what I have.  This is because I’m a verbal person and not a visual, spatial or tactile person, so it’s gotta all be OUT THERE for me to know what it is. I could rattle off a list for you of what I have, but I cannot get a grasp of how it can be something else without looking at it, and touching it, and unraveling it to see how big (or small) it is.

When you step into my sewing room, you will see that it is rather full of furniture.  My sewing room is also our guest room, so there is a sofa bed in there.  It hulks along one wall, and is very useful for depositing works in progress or for throwing myself upon when I am in the doldrums because I cannot for the life of me work out how best to proceed with whatever step has now flummoxed me.

To your right is a built in wardrobe.  It houses my WIPs, sewing bits and bobs, and ironing waiting to be done.  

My piece de resistance in my wardrobe is how I house my bias bindings, ribbons, zips and other itty bitty trims.  I present to you: The Hanger of Trims.  It is a trouser hanger that I got from Kmart or Big W or one of those kinds of department stores, with swivelling arms.  The zips I’ve attached by little metal loop clips, which can be obtained from most stationery stores, or in my case, Daiso. They’re much nicer like this, and at a glance I know exactly what I need to go and buy. Ha.

I have two tables in my sewing room.  One is for cutting and dumping things upon.  The other bears the weight of my sewing machine and overlocker, and is also another space for dumping things upon.  

My fabric collection is not too over the top, but there is more there than I can use in the near future, and it still seems that I don’t have any of the *right* fabric.  Do you experience that too?  Partially, this is because I have bought lots of fabric remnants, and much more woven fabric than knits, even though I sew and wear more knits than woven,  I’m still up in the air about whether I should try to change that and sew more wovens.  

My fabric used to live inside my wardrobe, on one of those hanging shelves you can get from Ikea.  However, as I pull my fabric out quite often, the stacks kept getting messy and I did not like it.  So I hunted around the internet for other ideas about how to stash it and found that many people like to use comic book protector things to wrap their fabric around and then store like books. That way, if you’re taking out one piece, all the rest do not collapse into a mess, resulting in no more sewing and you on the floor re-folding all your fabric.  

Now, I don’t hold truck with buying things if I can find a workaround using things I have.  My woven fabric is mostly cotton, linen and linen-cotton blends, and will likely stay that way (I doubt a foray into silk or chiffon sewing anytime soon…) I can see the value in using the special comic book protector cards for special fabrics, but I’m not too bothered if the cardboard stains my fabric.  It will mostly come out in the wash.  Also, my shelves were novel-spaced apart, not comic book spaced apart, so I needed things I could cut down to the right size.  I cut cardboard until I realised that greeting cards are about the right size, so I used some old greeting cards to wrap the fabric around.

I did this until I got the hang of how to fold the fabric so that it would just end up the size I needed.  I’m a dab hand at folding (I bet that I could fold origami and fitted sheets competitively), so it didn’t take me long to get the knack of it.  Not all my fabrics have card inside to keep.

I repurposed the Ikea hanging shelves as dividers for my knit fabric, which don’t really work wrapping around card.

My patterns and sewing books live on the same bookshelf, together with my threads, which form a sort of decoration, and I like to stand there and rearrange them periodically.

Other sewing paraphernalia live on the bookshelf too: all the additional sewing machine hardware (feet, mostly) and other paraphernalia (needles, pins, extra rotary cutter blades, lots of washable crayola pens).   

There are also things that don’t quite have a place: a box of reasonably sized scraps; boxes of elastic and other bits and bobs, and my neglected other crafts stuff (origami paper, calligraphy pens, glass cutters).  I keep musing about how to deal with all this stuff, but they have not yet quite got out of my head and into my reality.  I’m not happy about them, but Ive hidden most of them away in the wardrobe.  I also want a pegboard for the wall above my desks, and then I can leave my scissors and rulers hanging in a decoratively tidy yet accessible way.  Soon, soon.  

I guess I would be obnoxiously smug if my sewing room was perfect.  Right now, I’m just averagely(*) smug.  

(* it’s a word now.  What of it?)

How to Sew Cycling Ankle Cuffs

Step 1.

Wonder what on earth they’re called, google like an obsessed woman (what? I like research) only to discover that if you google “ankle cuffs”‘ my friends, you do not get cycling related dooberhickies.  No indeed.  Go on.  Google it.  I’ll wait (hint, don’t do it if you’re at work though).

Step 2.

Think, honest, how hard can it be?  All the cycling cuffs / trouser clips I’ve had in the past, and that I invariably lose, have been too narrow to be any use.  Because what I need is to keep my trousers in check, yes, but also to protect them from chain grease.  Also also, to reflect. Hoo boy, do I ever need my trouser clips / cycling cuff / dooberhickies to reflect.

Step 3.

Get distracted by what other things I can make reflect.

Step 4.

Gather your materials.  You will need:

  • Base fabric that is at least 40cm wide x 60cm long because you will cut four rectangular pieces about 40cm wide by 15cm tall;
  • Reflective ribbon, bias tape, grosgrain etc.  I have reflective grosgrain, which I bought from the internet;
  • Velcro: you will need two strips about 15cm long (NB, one strip should contain both hook and loop, if you know what I mean) My Velcro is not that wide (an inch), but I reckon the wider the Velcro, the better.
  • Thread; matching or contrasting.  Your call.
  • Sewing machine.  Or you can sew it by hand if you’re completely bonkers.  Up to you.


Step 5.

Cut your fabric: mine is approximately 15cm tall x 40 cm wide.  I could have gone narrower. You want enough to go around your ankles, trousers and shoes, with a bit of overlap for the Velcro.  Two pieces will be the outer pieces; two will be the lining, so you can cut them out of different fabrics if you are so inclined. I did not because I am lazy.

Step 6.

Mark the mid point of the two outer pieces of your fabric.  Then, divide each half in half again and mark that mid point.  This will be where your reflective ribbon runs.  You can either draw a line, or mark each end.  Whatever is easiest for you to know where to place the ribbon.  And if it’s a little off centre? I think you’ll live.

Step 7.

Line your reflective ribbon along your marks and pin pin pin.  The ribbon does not have to abut the edges because that’s your seam allowance.  I sew mostly with a 3/8″/1cm seam allowance because I’m comfortable with it, but you can do whatever makes you happy.  This is not precision sewing, my friends.


See? It reflects.  Yippee!


Step 8.

Edge stitch along each long edge of the ribbon.  I use my blind hem foot as it has a nifty little guide to keep me on the straight and narrow when edge stitching. (Straight and narrow.  Geddit?).  Sew sew sew.

Do not fear: I removed the pin before I started sewing.

Step 9.

Now sew your Velcro strips.  Line them up about an inch from the edge of your fabric, along the short end.  The hooks, especially, can be difficult to sew.  Just wrangle with it, sometimes pushing through your feed dogs, sometimes pulling, sometimes guiding with the hand wheel.  You can do it.

I sewed three strips: two on one edge and one on the other.  On one cuff, I sewed one loop and two hooks; on the other cuff, two loops and one hook.  This is so I can wear them over shoes, where it will just go around my bare legs, and also over calf height boots.

You could also sew one loop on the lining, and hook on the outer, but I like my way because it means I’m sewing quadrupled up fabric on the bit that will do the most duty.

Step 10.

Now, sew your lining pieces to your outer pieces.  Match them, right sides together.  If you sewed Velcro to a lining piece, make sure that it is opposite the Velcro on your outer piece, otherwise you will be wee bit annoyed when you have to unpick your sewing …

Leave an opening a few inches wide so you can turn your cuffs right side out.

Step 11.

Turn your cuffs right side out and push out each of the corners with a blunt pencil.  Now top stitch all the way around.

If you, like me, sewed Velcro to only the outer piece, then you need to fold it over so that it opposes the other Velcro, and then top stitch that down.

My reflective ribbon strips are a bit wonky.  Meh, whatever. Still shiny.

Step 12.

Press everything real good.

Step 13.

Put your ankle cuffs on, go ride your bike and REFLECT.  Ain’t no car driver gonna successfully claim they did not see ME.

Reflective Belladone of Awesomeness 

There.  How was that for a title and a name of a dress? What is the thing with naming dresses anyway? And why do I always get distracted by questions, rather than just getting to the point?

Belladone has been in my WIP pile for a long, long time.  I got the pattern back in January, and in a burst of enthusiasm, traced my size (straight 36, if you’re wondering) *and* cut the fabric for it pretty much straight away.  I even knew exactly how I would bling it up, using bias binding I had made from my one and only (but very enthusiastic) use of my bias tape maker.  Then I hung it up amongst my WIP ‘pile’ (which I’ve always hung, in case you’re wondering about that too). 

Oh, and WIP stands for Work In Progress. In case that acronym has been bothering you.

And then I made 2 shift style Simple Modern Sewing Pattern 3a summer dresses, a Bali Cambie, a Citrusy Sureau, a couple of random never to be blogged no way nah uh you cannot make me tshirt sack dresses, an Eva dress, a few Maria Denmark Birgitte tees, two lady skaters, Colette Clovers, an avocado hoodie and a whole lotta little drawstring bags,and lo and behold, nigh on 11 months have passed.

Hey. I made a lot of stuff in that eleven months.  Well done, me.

Somehow, somewhere, talk of adding reflectivity to a dress happened.  It may have been the fault of Tin Lizzie who has made her own awesomely reflective dress.  At least, she started me talking about it.  It may have been one of those serendipitous, stars aligning with the moon during the age of reflective biking outfits, but Rachel of My Messings also wanted to make a reflective dress, and she thought the Belladone would be a good candidate for that, and I trusted her much greater sewing expertise and then we spent a while trying to persuade others to join us in our reflective Belladone endeavours.

It’s not too late.  You can still join us.  (Jooooiiiinnn Uuuuussss.)

And then we made our reflective Belladone dresses.  You can read all about Rachel’s here. The photos are fantastic aren’t they (I am a modest person).

Belladone without flash

Belladone with flash

There was so much grinning in my sewing room I thought I would be vacuuming up teeth and sparkles for months afterwards.

I did piping for the first time. Did I mention it was reflective piping? It is probably my favourite thing about this dress.  Now I must add reflective piping to All The Things.

Piping on the waistband.

By the way, dealing with reflective bias binding is a pain.  It is thick and you have to coax it (swearing may be required) along the feed dogs (that’s the name of the bumpy things under your sewing foot.  Honest.) My hot tip? Use a long stitch.  Swear a lot.

Rachel also helped me fit the back, with a bit of a cheat, hidden dart.  I will be learning how to rotate that dart out of the flat pattern in the near (oh, I do make myself laugh) future, for the next Belladone.  Because I will be making more of this dress.  And perhaps more of them will be reflective. Anyway, I’ve got to use all that rainbow plaid bias binding I made back in January.

Cheaters fitting dart.  Also known as genius.

Rachel also also helped me do a hand picked zipper.  It was a watershed moment.  Life before hand picked zippers, and life after.  One door closes, a window opens. Or something like that.  I did not even hate hand sewing while doing it (although I did machine sew a second line of stitching in the zipper seam allowance because I want a second line of defence in case my hand sewing doesn’t hold up to the rigours of being worn by me.)

Check out my totally not completely crap hand sewing! 

AND THEN we went for a bike ride.  To get frozen yoghurt. In our reflective Belladone dresses.  And the angels sung, and fireworks lit the skies, and cherubic children blew bubbles.  Also, a few people did double takes when we cycled past them and one young couple were hellbent on getting their puppy run over, first by Rachel, then by me and – because Rachel and I did not oblige and instead swerved to avoid them – tried to let their puppy run in front of a car.  Some people should not be allowed puppies.

At the puppy nursey, the puppy guardian should ask, “Do you intend to let this sweet, innocent but very silly creature run in front of bikes and/or cars?”  If prospective puppy parents say, “Yo.  Sure.  Why not?” Then the puppy guardian will say, “You are never allowed a puppy.  Not now.  Not ever.  You may only say Yo ironically.  Be gone.”

Me, bike wrangling.  Also, the only shot of the front of the dress.  It’s not as awesome as the back.

Rachel’s Belladone in action.

Where was I? Oh yes. Reflective Belladone. It made us happy.

(This photo stolen from Rachel’s Instagram feed.  Please forgive me, Rachel.)